A History Of Coin Collecting
While it is impossible to identify the very beginnings of coin collecting, it is generally agreed upon that the first coins in Western civilization originated from the Greek Isles. Coin collecting became a hobby soon after the first coins were minted around 650 B.C. Coins quickly became the newest form of payment for goods. During the fifth century B.C., the Greeks began to commission classical artists to design the faces and figures on their coins. They typically used the deities so prevalent in their mythology, depicting them as idealized versions of humans. Collectors of these ancient treasures claim that Greek coins are among the most beautiful, with their statuesque depictions of gods, goddesses, and mythical heroes.
Alexander the Great propagated the use of coinage in his conquered realms, and instituted the practice of using realistic designs on the coins instead of idealistic representations. These realistic portraits stand out as some of the only true renderings of the ancient leaders of yesterday. Indeed, coins from this point forward can often be used as an historical primer, as they typically honored the political leaders of any given time. Following the Greeks, the Persians and the Romans began minting gold, silver, and bronze coins.
Most numismatists show interest in one of the following areas of coin collecting: Ancient Greek or Roman coins, medieval or hammered coins, or coins from the modern era.
Perhaps the most famous coin collector, Francesco Petrarca, nicknamed the father of the Renaissance, was the first coin enthusiast to bring attention to coin collecting. Following him, the hobby became popular with popes and nobility deeming coin collecting "The Hobby of Kings."
In the United States, coins were officially minted beginning in 1792, with the passage of the Coinage Act. This act legalized the United States dollar as the official unit of monetary exchange throughout the states, a standard which still stands today. The Philadelphia Mint was the first to manufacture US coins, starting in 1792 when it coined the US Silver Dollar. It was joined by the Denver Mint in 1906. The San Francisco Mint and the West Point mint also produce coins, mainly proof sets and gold coins. Each US coin is marked with a P, D, S or W, depending on the mint at which it is produced.
Today there are millions of people enthralled by coin collecting. Numismatists enjoy coins for both their aesthetic, historical, and monetary value. One of the hobby's main appeals is the potential it offers to discover something rare and valuable. While identifying such a coin is exciting, the search is the main thrill for coin collecting enthusiasts.
Several different museums showcase rare and valuable coin collections. The Smithsonian Museum in Washington D. C. as well as the American Numismatic Society in New York City holds collections. The American Numismatic Association was established in 1891 to encourage education concerning coin collecting. Such organizations have become increasingly important to a hobby which attracts new collectors on a regular basis.
If you are just starting out collecting ancient coins, you may want to consider Roman coins as a good place to begin. There are plenty of resources out there to help you identify Roman coins and understand the history of the coins and the cultures they represent. Byzantine coins, on the other hand, present more a challenge for the novice collector. Byzantine coins are typically divided into one of several eras, running from 498 AD to the Arab-Byzantine era beginning in the mid-15th century. Another fascinating era in coin collection comes from the Persian coinage, divided into Parthian Persian coins (238 BC 224 AD) and Sasania Persian ((224 AD 649 AD).